EAST COLUMBIA communities, like diamonds, have many faces. Each one, like a precious jewel, reflects light in its own way.
On a blustery Saturday in November, Sean Martin, fourth-grade teacher at Phelps Luck Elementary School, took 20 pupil and parent volunteers on a cleanup campaign along the paths of Kendall Ridge.
The idea grew out of a citizenship lesson in his social studies class.
Reading for the class included a book about Chief Seattle, respected leader of the Northwest Nations in the 1850s, who negotiated with the U.S. government for the purchase of land belonging to the tribes.
The chief gave a speech to the government representatives with whom he was negotiating. He admonished them to respect the land they would receive in the same way the Indians had respected it for all the years of their stewardship.
"The Earth does not belong to us," Seattle said in his native tongue.
"We belong to the Earth. what befalls the Earth befalls all the sons and daughters of the Earth. How can you buy the sky? How can you own the rain and wind?"
After the social studies lesson, as he led the children outside from their classroom to the gymnasium, Martin turned to find his pupils breaking ranks to collect litter that had blown onto school grounds.
He was delighted the class had taken the lesson to heart. Since then, collecting trash has become a ritual for the children, a matter of personal pride.
Sensing that his class was eager to show their appreciation of Earth in a bigger way, Martin thought of a path near his home where he and his wife, Jennifer, walk with their Weimaraner, Ally.
The open space had been spoiled by debris from townhouse construction along Snowden River Parkway.
Mustering a cleanup squad from among the children was easy for Martin.
With the promise of hot cider and fresh homemade chili to warm them after the event, the children and their families assembled on Tamar Drive and marched along the trail bagging every bit of litter they could find.
In short order, 12 black plastic lawn bags were stuffed with everything from Styrofoam coffee cups to paper asphalt shingle wrappers.
Janice Leonard, whose daughter, Andrea, is in Martin's class, thought the builders of the homes next to the cleanup area would probably appreciate the children's hard work.
She put in a call to Ryland Homes to test her theory.
Kathy Reda, administrative assistant to James Joyce, president of the company's Baltimore division, responded with a pizza party and printed certificates of recognition for "outstanding public service" to each of the pupils.
"It's so great to see kids take an interest in their schoolwork," she said.
"It was fun," Joyce said. "Kathy really jumped on it. She did it all, taking the time to get the certificates just right, and printing them up."
"I live near the Inner Harbor," he added, "I often see how trash gets blown into the water and understand how the kids felt. We try to keep our job sites clean, so we're happy to do this for them."
The pizza party took place Feb. 4.
Cleanup parents Reggie Jordan, Paula and Fred Lancaster, Mac Macintosh, Kim Plasse, Paula Permison and Jodi Wiseman had to work that day and couldn't be there, but they were happy to see the children receive a reward for their initiative.
When the pizza was gone and the room returned to order, still another lesson was to be learned.
"OK, class, now let's pair up and write our drafts of a business letter thanking Mr. Joyce for the pizza," Martin said.
Trash collectors Andrea Leonard, Sharelle Tatum, Brady McIntosh, Shana Jordan, Stephanie Wiseman, Keri Plasse, Jamal Harrison, Adam Lancaster and their classmates tucked into the work.
Chief Seattle would have been pleased.
A week of peace
Deacon George Martin of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church led an interfaith convocation at the beginning of Peace Week on Sunday night at Oakland Mills Interfaith Center.
This is the fifth year that Peace Week has been observed in Howard County.
The initiative brings religious leaders together to promote a message of harmony in the world.
The evening opened with a prayer by the Rev. William E. Hayman, pastor of the Lutheran Church of the Living Word in Oakland Mills.
Jan Morrison, cantor for the Columbia Jewish Congregation, played a piece for guitar titled, "Circle Chant."
Then came a reading by Akil K. Rahim of the Ambassadors for Peace Project, a local interfaith group.
Rahim is a member of the Dar Al Taqwa Islamic Mosque, which holds services at Owen Brown Interfaith Center.
Suheil Badi Bushrui, holder of the Peace Chair at the University of Maryland, College Park, was the keynote speaker.
His message was about how diverse peoples could approach a vision of harmony for mankind by following their paths to God.
"This is perhaps one of the most difficult things to accomplish," Bushrui said. "Eighty percent of the conflicts in the world begin with religious discord and intolerance."
As a young man in Palestine, Bushrui was educated in the Koran and steeped in Islamic culture.
His father, second in command of the British forces occupying Palestine, sent him to an Anglican boarding school in Jerusalem to learn another view of the world.
Eventually, the professor embraced the Baha'i faith, which focuses on peace and tolerance toward all mankind.
In the audience were Owen Brown residents Mwangaza Ba, 25, and her husband, Ousmane Ba, 30, who moved to Columbia more than two years ago from Senegal.
Both are Baha'i.
"I wish more people would come," Ousmane Ba said. "It is pivotal to have people of different backgrounds, cultural or whatever, to work to solve problems."
It was an evening for all members of the community to embrace a shared hope of peace.
"We've got to be at peace with ourselves before we can bring peace to the world," Martin said.
Akil K. Rahim will be the facilitator for the culminating activity for the week, a workshop organized by the Ambassadors for Peace, at 7: 30 p.m. Sunday at Wilde Lake Interfaith Center.
The goal is for the congregations participating in Peace Week to make a commitment to work together by sending ambassadors to other congregations.
Chinese New Year
Children from the Columbia Chinese School celebrated the Year of the Rabbit with a dance performance Sunday at the east Columbia branch of the Howard County Library.
Girls, ages 3 1/2 to 17, performed traditional dances such as "Naughty Girl Playing with a Clam" and "Lightly Dance with Feather Fan."
Children's librarian Mie Mie Wu said the group had performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
Pub Date: 2/17/99